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French Cello Sonatas


By: Stephen Sensbach

Publication Date: September 2001


The years between the end of the Franco-Prussian War and the start of the Second World War witnessed a renaissance of French instrumental music and an evolution from the elegance of Saint-Saens to Debussy’s revolutionary style and beyond. This pioneering study surveys one hundred published cello sonatas and thirty-seven unpublished sonatas written by French composers during this fertile period. It brings to light many unknown works and provides new perspectives on those that are better known.

Sensbach presents the historical background of each piece and provides biographies of the composers. There are also biographies of cellists and pianists of the period, many of whom were well known at the time but have since faded into undeserved obscurity. Technical information – including a listing of keys and time signatures, an example of the opening measures, dates of publication and library locations – is provided for each sonata. A brief description is made of each movement, covering form, style and level of difficulty for the performers. Where possible, excerpts of original reviews and comments from the composers letters have been included. The book is richly illustrated with contemporary photographs and drawings, many published here for the first time.

French Cello Sonatas 1871-1939 is a treasure trove for cellists, cello enthusiasts, and anyone interested in the music of the age of Debussy and Ravel.

‘With a remarkably clear vision of the past, Stephen Sensbach has given us a new book of inestimable value. He shares the bounty of his exhaustive research, which virtually ensures the future of an almost forgotten body of important French chamber music.’Claude Kenneson

‘Stephen Sensbach’s book is full of fascinating forgotten information — a real treat for those interested in the byways of cello literature.’ Steven Isserlis

‘In his double capacity of performer and researcher, Stephen Sensbach has given us a work of rare interest. He knows how to explore unknown territory and give it true appeal. The contribution of this work to French musical studies is great indeed.’Daniele Pistone

French Cello Sonatas 1871-1939is remarkable for the thoroughness of its documentation, and will be a marvellous resource for those who love the cello.’Philippe Muller


STEPHEN SENSBACH studied at the University of Texas and in Detmold, Germany, and is presently a cellist with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland.



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Weight 1 kg
Dimensions 170 × 240 mm
Publication Date

September 2001


Paperback, 322pp